I was all for the Cleveland Indians’ decision to hire Terry Francona. I was for it as soon as we learned that he was being considered for the Tribe’s vacant managerial job—heck, I was dreaming of putting Francona in the Cleveland clubhouse even before it started looking like a plausible scenario. I love his experience, I love his passion, and I love his relationship with the front office.
But until the Indians officially announced Francona at a press conference Monday morning, I didn’t realize how great of a hire this was. After having seen him face the Cleveland media at Progressive Field for the first time, I can honestly say that I never thought I would be this excited about a manager.
First, there was Francona’s passion. After an extremely disappointing season that tested the patience of every baseball fan in Northeast Ohio, no one seems to believe in this team more than Francona. He genuinely seems to have made building relationships with his players a top priority, and he’ll definitely bring a greater sense of fire to this clubhouse. “We will always compete. We may not win every game, but we won’t back down from anyone.” Such sentiment is a huge breath of fresh air compared to the apathy that seemed to characterize the 2012 Indians under Manny Acta.
Relatedly, we also saw Francona demonstrate a no-nonsense approach in dealing with the media. Asked whether Justin Masterson might be moved back to the bullpen, Francona conclusively put the notion to bed before the reporter had even finished his question. He also refused to take the bait when given the chance to play into the popular that the team’s low payroll is the root of its struggles. “You’re darn right it [i]sn’t,” he said. “I didn’t ask for [an assurance of a higher payroll]…that wasn’t one of the questions.”
But what really won me over was the seriousness with which he professed to take his duties to make the right calls from the dugout. “If you have a question on strategy that I can’t answer, shame on me,” he said. While Manny Acta’s strategic decisions often seemed to lack rational explanations, Francona always seems to have a reason for his rhyme. And he sees the media holding him accountable for his decisions as his responsibility, not an annoyance.
Granted, Francona hasn’t managed a single game in an Indians uniform yet, and even the greatest manager in the world wouldn’t help the team more than, say, Ubaldo Jimenez regaining the velocity he’s lost on his fastball or Grady Sizemore enjoying a season of perfect health. But if his first press conference is any indication, we Tribe fans are very fortunate to be entering the Terry Francona era.